Well now that I’ve FINALLY covered that wedding of ours here on the blog, it’s about time for me to tell you about that honeymoon we took. That sweet, glorious, perfect, unbelievable honeymoon. The one we took A YEAR ago. Woops. It’s not like I didn’t want to tell you about it, it’s just that I wanted to talk about the wedding first (because we need to go in order), and well … because life happens. But here we are! And don’t you worry – I’m the kind of person who takes notes during her travels so she can remember everything she ate, so I’ll be able to pull those memories out of my brain thanks to my trusty iPhone notes. Near the end of our trip we also spent some time during one of our last meals filling in the gaps of my notes to write down what we did between everything we ate (because I guess that stuff is important too). We realized that we could hardly remember what all we had done at the beginning of the trip, so we had to get it all written down before it became totally impossible to remember. It’s a good thing we did, because otherwise this post would not be nearly as thorough.
We spent the first 5 days of our trip in Paris and the last 4 days in St. Malo, France. I’m breaking it up into separate posts, so in this one I’ll just be filling you in on all of the juicy details about Paris. The two halves were pretty wildly different, so I think they each deserve their own time in the spotlight. Plus, if I wrote about the whole thing in one post it would be a 15,000-word blog post. I’m really doing you some favors here.
Paris wasn’t the most original honeymoon choice (helloooo cliche), but for us it was more special than that. Robert and I met online through OkCupid, and before we even met in person we discussed how we both wanted to visit Paris. I told him about this bike tour of Versailles that I had been wanting to do (see: day 3) ever since a friend of mine in college told me about it, and he was all for it. This is one of the ways I knew I liked him. We clicked so quickly and naturally, that even then I had the thought in the back of my mind that “if we end up hitting it off and getting married, we’re going to Paris on our honeymoon.” So when we got engaged, I told Robert that we had to go to Paris for at least PART of our honeymoon. He agreed (because OBVIOUSLY), and the bike tour of Versailles was a must. We made it all happen, and I consider that almost as much of an accomplishment as making our wedding happen.
We enlisted a lovely travel agent from AAA to help us plan our trip, and I am so freakin’ glad we did. Overall, planning our wedding was one of the biggest times of stress I’ve ever faced in my life (narrowing down guest lists, trying to plan a party that’s 4.5 hours away from where we live, not knowing how to plan a party of that magnitude, trying to stay within our budget, etc. – I have a rough life, I know). So, I kind of kept forgetting that we needed to plan our honeymoon, and that stressed me out on a whole other level. Neither of us had any major experience with traveling abroad, especially with going to more than one location. Using a travel agent was an absolute treat and one of the best decisions we made in regards to our whole wedding and honeymoon process. We visited the office on a Saturday, discussed what we had in mind and what our budget was, and she sent us home with some books to pore over. We spent the next afternoon deciding on our second location (St. Malo), and picking our top 3 choices of hotels for each location. (Which, by the way, it’s so much easier to pick a hotel when you have a list of about ten that are in your budget and in your travel agent’s network, as opposed to scouring Trip Advisor for all of the hotels in Paris.) I emailed her that Sunday night, and within two days we were fully booked with our flights, hotels, trains AND private cars for traveling to and from the airport. LIFE SAVER. Oh my god – just typing that sends a wash of relief over my body. So if you’re short on planning time and don’t feel confident in your ability to find the best places to stay wherever it is you’re going, just use a travel agent. Also, bonus prize: because of AAA’s connections, we were able to leave our car at a hotel in New York the whole time we were gone by staying there for one night. So we left Watkins Glen (where we got married) the day before we flew out, drove to New York City, stayed at that hotel for the night, and then the next day we had a leisurely meal at the hotel before catching a shuttle to the airport. It ended up being cheaper than paying for parking at the airport the whole time we were gone, and also made our first travel day a lot easier.
So from here I will take you through our separate days in Paris. Be prepared to hear all about the delicious food we ate, and a little bit about the random stuff we did while traveling in between each food stop. Just kidding …. but not really. That’s how we planned most of our trip. (Well, that’s how I planned it. Robert just kind of goes with the flow and I make schedules.) I had a list of things to do (which was really a list of places to eat), so we picked a few that were near each other for each day and meandered our way between them. We tried not to pack too many “must-dos” into each day so we could feel relaxed and also give our schedule some wiggle room for those surprise gems that you stumble upon while traveling. This is basically a big diary entry of everything that we did. My main intent for this post is to get this all written down so I can remember it in the future, but I also hope that it might be helpful for someone planning a visit to Paris who can gain some insights from what we did and enjoyed (or didn’t enjoy).
We landed in Paris around 7:00 am Paris time, which was really like 1:00 am our time. I was able to sleep a little bit on the plane (that’s one of my skills – I like to fall asleep pre-take-off), but Robert wasn’t so lucky. As you can imagine, it was pretty disorienting arriving in a foreign country while it feels like the middle of the night to your body, and to top it off we were hungry. You could probably even say that I was “hangry.” We endured a harrowing ride to our hotel from the airport with our private driver (although we shared it with another American, so it was technically semi-private …) and arrived safely at our hotel in the city.
Our hotel, the Aviatic St. Germain, was so quaint and lovely. It was in a really old building with a winding staircase that went up the middle to the rooms, and a tiny little elevator with a door you had to manually pull open that just barely fit two people and their suitcases. Despite its old-world charm, the rooms themselves were very hi-tech. They were quite small by American standards, but we had all the room we needed and the accommodations were leagues ahead of what we experienced in our enormous hotel room in New Jersey on our way home from the trip. The bathroom had a heated towel rack and a really nice stall shower, but one of our favorite features of the room was the very French window that opened out onto the rooftops of Paris. (cue sigh)
We were extremely tempted to just take a nap in our cute little hotel room because we were exhausted, but we were also starving and knew that the best way to beat the jet lag would be to attempt to stay up all day and force ourselves into the new time zone. So we headed out into the city. We really wanted to find a cute French bakery to start our French eating off right, and after some wandering around the neighborhood we stumbled upon Poilane bakery, which was one of the bakeries I knew we needed to try anyway (thanks to Erika). We bought an apple tart and a chocolate croissant and it was wonderful. I think we just stood on the sidewalk and ate them like vultures.
LE SEVRES RASPAIL CAFE BRASSERIE
We knew that wasn’t enough to tide us over, so we continued to venture around until we settled on a corner “cafe brasserie” that looked perfect and cute and French enough for our first-day-in-Paris standards. The name was Le Sevres Raspail. We ordered the focaccia with grilled eggplant, ricotta and fresh mint, french onion soup and I got a hot chocolate. That french onion soup was the best I’ve ever had in my life. I loved it because it reminded me of the other best french onion soup I’ve ever had (which you should make as soon as possible). The eggplant focaccia was also excellent. We really lucked out with this first “meal” we ate in Paris. We would later learn that not all corner cafes in Paris are created equally. And – weirdly enough, this place has terrible reviews online. We must have gotten extremely lucky with our meal because we were quite pleased.
SLEEPWALKING + ERIC KAYSER BAKERY
It was much colder in Paris than we had anticipated, so we scooted back to our hotel for some light jackets after our meal before heading off to explore some more. Once again we had to fight the urge to lay down and go to sleep. That first day we didn’t have anywhere really specific that we wanted to go because we were trying to soak it all in, so we just started wandering the streets of Paris. It turns out we were so tired that we were basically delirious. We were both kind of half-dreaming, and Robert even fell off of a sidewalk at one point. After that little incident we realized that the rest of the day was useless in our condition and we needed some sleep. We decided we would keep walking for a few blocks until we hit the river, and then we would just head back to the hotel. So we did exactly that. On our way back we found an Eric Kayser location, another bakery I had wanted to try. We popped in there and I bought a loaf of bread with fresh figs baked into it, as well as a “chocolate noir” cookie (a chocolate chunk cookie with walnut pieces). That bread saved my life quite a few times over the next few days whenever I needed a snack in our hotel room.
CAFE LE GEORGE V + THE WORLD’S BEST MOJITO
We laid down to sleep at 3pm, and our plan was to attempt to sleep through the night and then wake up super early and have a long second day in Paris. Well, I woke up at 8pm and realized there was no way I’d be able to sleep through the night. I woke Robert up and told him we should go out on the town and have dinner. We headed towards the Eiffel Tower, hoping to find a spot near there to eat. A place called Cafe Le George V ended up fitting the bill, and we sat outside. I had cod with orange juice and rosemary and a side of fries, while Robert had salmon with butter sauce and rice. We shared creme brûlée for dessert (naturally). It was all very good, but more importantly, this is where I had the best mojito of my life. Actually, the best TWO mojitos of my life. I ordered a double (my motto during the honeymoon was #yoloitsourhoneymoon), and it came out in a pint glass with a sparkler and a glow stick in it. Then partway through our meal I ordered another double. I ended up having a lot of mojitos in France (they’re obsessed!), and these from our first night were the best, hands down. So then our bill came. I saw “mojito: 26 euro” and I thought, “Dang! Those mojitos cost me 26 euro!” Well, farther down the bill it said “mojito: 26 euro” AGAIN. They were 26 euro A PIECE. So I spent 52 euro on mojitos that night (which translated to about 65 American dollars at the time). But – I don’t regret it one bit. Those were the best mojitos of my whole life (so far), and I was on my honeymoon and it was my first night in Paris. That was money very well-spent, in my opinion. (And it makes for a good story.)
As I’m sure you can imagine, we had a very drunk walk back to our hotel. We had to do some serious drunk-sleuthing to find it (Paris is kind of confusing), but somehow we made it back and went to sleep for the second time that day.
Let me start off Day 2 with a pro tip: If you’re adjusting to a new time zone, don’t sleep with the curtains closed. We had gone to bed very late after our drunken stroll back to the hotel. Knowing we had slept for five hours earlier, we figured we would just sleep until we woke up, probably naturally waking up at a reasonable morning hour. Well we clearly underestimated our post-wedding and travel exhaustion, because we slept for a solid twelve hours. Yep. I woke up and went into an immediate panic after realizing that it was already 3pm on our second day in Paris. “Robert! Wake up! It’s 3 o’clock and we only have so much time in Paris!! WHAT HAVE WE DONE?!?!?!” Robert didn’t exactly appreciate being woken up this way. (Hey buddy, welcome to married life. You knew I was crazy when you got yourself into this mess.) Two minutes later the phone rings. I force Robert to answer it because his French is way better than mine (which consists of “bon anniversaire”), and it’s the concierge wanting to know if we’re ever going to leave our hotel room so the cleaning people can come in because they’re almost done for the day. Robert, clearly not thinking, tells them “Oh no problem we’ll be out of here in ten minutes.” Cue second panic attack by Sara. “Um hellooooo don’t you know me enough by now to know that there’s NO WAY I’ll be ready to leave here in ten minutes?!?!?” The cleaning people show up at the door five minutes later, so we just swapped with them for fresh towels and told them not to worry about the rest of it. How’s that for a first official morning in Paris?
We eventually made it out of the hotel with a game plan for how to spend the rest of the day. We embarked on a trek to Happy Noodle (Happy Nouilles), a restaurant recommended to us by our friends Luke and Laura, who had been in Paris earlier in the summer. It was a great recommendation. I’m not entirely sure what we were eating because we ordered based off of pictures, but we got some kind of grilled dumplings and then two noodle soups, one with pork and one with lamb. They were both delicious, but the bowls were huge so we wish we would have ordered one to share (because we knew we had a lot more eating to do that day).
WANDERING + CAFE LE DOME
From there we wandered around for a while, and everything seemed to be closed because it was around dinnertime. Robert bought a scarf, we stumbled upon the Louvre, and we tried to go to Angelina’s and Ladurée but they were both closed. I think we walked around for a solid five hours. We were eventually hungry again, so we stopped at Cafe Le Dome on Rue St. Dominique. I ordered onion soup again, hoping it would be wonderful, as well as a glass of Muscat, and Robert ordered a ham sandwich. It was not great, and this is where the staff was extremely rude to us. It was certainly not our best food choice. Had we read the Trip Advisor reviews of this place (“Keep walking”), we would have known.
Then we headed back to the hotel but wanted to stop somewhere for a drink, because #yoloitsourhoneymoon. There was a place around the corner from our hotel, Cafe Montparnasse, so Robert ordered a French beer and I got a cocktail called The Aphrodisiac, which consisted of gin, lime juice, Cointreau and soda. Even though we had really only been up and out and about for half of that day (or less), we were exhausted by the end of it. So at least it FELT like a full day.
This was our favorite day of the whole honeymoon. It began with breakfast at our hotel, which was AMAZING. They provided hard-boiled eggs, a plate of meats and cheeses, croissants, mini macarons, coffee, juice, etc. It beat the heck out of your standard continental breakfast here in the states. My favorite thing to eat was a little sandwich made out of a croissant with a prosciutto-like meat, brie cheese and apricot jam, with a side of mini macarons. We then headed to the Fat Tire Bike Tours office to begin our favorite activity from the trip: our bike tour of Versailles.
VERSAILLES BIKE TOUR
First of all, I can’t recommend this company enough. They’re wonderful. They have bike tours in Paris, Barcelona, Berlin and London, so if you’re visiting any of those cities you should definitely check them out. But more importantly, if you have any desire to visit Versailles, then this bike tour is the only way to do it, in my opinion.
It begins with a train ride from Paris to Versailles (which is included in your ticket). Once we arrived in Versailles, we went to pick up our bikes and rode them to the farmer’s market in the center of town. This was one of my favorite things about it (go figure). We had a full hour to shop around at the market so we could stock up on food for the picnic we would be having later. The market itself was really interesting – It was made up of four L-shaped buildings that formed a rectangle with an open square in the center. Inside all of the buildings were the cheese and meat shops, wine shops and other items that needed more climate control. Outside in the little square were a bunch of produce stands and some other products. One of the outdoor stands was making fresh crepes and the smell was intoxicating, so we got some with Nutella and salted butter caramel (homemade) and ate them before we continued on the journey. We also bought a jar of that salted butter caramel because it was outrageously good.
After the stop at the market we biked to the actual grounds of the Versailles “chateau.” We rode around leisurely with a few stops here and there for our guide to fill us in on some history about Versailles. Being on the bike was such a picturesque and relaxing way to view the grounds (and obviously gave us the ability to see more of it than we would have on foot). It was a truly surreal feeling to be biking through the grounds of Versailles with a baguette and other picnic goodies in my bike basket. Throughout the whole experience of that day we had a lot of moments of “Are we really here right now?” It was incredible. We visited Marie Antoinette’s personal fake farm (“The Queen’s Hamlet”) and some other smaller palaces before taking a loop of the Grand Canal and stopping there for our picnic.
The picnic itself was another major highlight of that day. Our picnic menu was made up of: a long baguette, fresh figs and nectarines, chocolate bark, apple vanilla jam, salted butter caramel, two cheeses: comte and camembert normandie, some kind of pistachio pastry, roasted potatoes and a bottle of Riesling. Ugh, it was all sooooo good. We were mainly just putting all of the things on the delicious bread in different combinations: cheese + jam, cheese + fig, the salted butter caramel, the caramel + jam + fruit, cheese + caramel, etc. It was heavenly. But, we also had a whole bottle of wine and only about 40 minutes to eat. Knowing we couldn’t take the wine into the chateau with us later, we obviously had to drink all of the wine. All of the other people in our group were in the same situation (and you were crazy if you didn’t get wine for your picnic – our tour guide came prepared with a bottle opener for all of us to use), so by the end of the picnic we were all feeling pretty nice, if you know what I mean. In other words, the bike ride turned into a tipsy bike ride. (My favorite kind!)
Following the picnic and a little bit more touring, we took our bikes back to their stations and then went back to the Versailles chateau for the big tour. As part of our bike tour ticket, we were able to skip the line to get in. I’m so glad about that because the chateau was our least favorite part of the whole day. Don’t get me wrong – it was cool to see the inside of this place. But it was so crowded that you were forced to move with a sea of people (good luck trying to go backwards), so it was making me feel claustrophobic, and all of the rooms started to look the same anyway. One good thing about the chateau was that it housed an Angelina’s (the cafe we tried to go to the day before and they were closed), so we popped in there so I could get a taste of their famous hot chocolate. (The hot chocolate was great, but I wouldn’t call it the best in the whole world or anything – I’m very picky about hot chocolate.) We all had our train tickets to head back to Paris, and we were free from that point on to look around the chateau and the gardens, maybe even get dinner in town and then head back whenever we felt like it. We didn’t stick around too long at the chateau and ended up going back on the train with our tour guide.
We knew the Fat Tire Bike Tours were running a special on their Eiffel Tower Skip-the-Line tickets, and we decided it was worth the money to us to get those and save time instead. The time that worked best for us was later that evening, so we went in search of a snack to tide us over until after the tour. We kind of learned the hard way that the French don’t like you to share food at cafes and restaurants. After getting kicked out of a cafe for mentioning that we wanted to share a sandwich (because they’re pretty big), we were able to find one open bakery and bought a sandwich with tomato, turkey, lettuce and mayo. Those bakery sandwiches are soooo good. We ate it on the sidewalk in the rain. (Sounds romantic, kinda wasn’t.)
EIFFEL TOWER TOUR
Thankfully the rain had mostly stopped in time for our Eiffel Tower tour. It began at a different Fat Tire Tours location, and one of their guides walked us to the tower and gave us a 5-minute history lesson about it before sending us up. What we didn’t realize is that our tickets allowed us to skip the line and get to the second floor, but once we were up there we still had to wait in line to get to the very top. The whole ordeal took about two hours. It sounds kind of crazy that we paid for “skip the line” tickets and still had to wait over an hour to get to the top, but those tickets probably saved us at least an extra two hours of standing in line. We were glad we did it. It certainly wasn’t my most pleasant experience of the whole trip, but it’s an experience that I’m glad to have had on our honeymoon.
After the whole Eiffel Tower situation I was feeling pretty hangry. (I like to eat every few hours – have you noticed?) We used some of our precious phone data and found a nearby restaurant that sounded good to us on Yelp. It was called L’eclair, and it was one of my favorite restaurants we ate at in Paris, which is funny because I feel like it was trying to be a Brooklyn restaurant. But then again, that’s probably why it appealed to me so much. (I have a love affair with Brooklyn.) They had a whole bunch of cocktails, but we decided to share a pitcher because it was the most cost-effective choice. We agreed on one called the “Kentucky Orchard Pitcher,” a bourbon cocktail with raspberry puree, ginger ale and some other tasty stuff in it. We each ordered a burger – I got the “Bacon Burger,” with bacon (obviously), cheddar, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and tartar sauce, and Robert got the “Mrs. Burger” with a fried egg, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and tartar sauce on it. They came with fries, which were excellent. This was such a great way to end our day. I loved the food and it felt comforting to be eating burgers and fries while drinking a bourbon cocktail, and our waiter was actually from Miami, so it was a relief to have a waiter that could talk to us so easily. Even though you don’t typically tip in France, he kind of swindled us into tipping him (I think because he knew we were American), but I didn’t really mind because he was a really great waiter (especially compared to the French waiters who leave you alone forever, which we’re not used to) and he gave us a tip about where to find a cab when we left. Plus, #yoloitsourhoneymoon.
MORE HOTEL BREAKFAST
We really loved our hotel breakfast because we had technically already paid for it, and it was a perfect way to eat a little something light before heading out on the road when we knew we would be eating a lot throughout the day. I need to eat immediately when I wake up, so it was great for tiding me over until we got to our first eating stop of the day, allowing me to actually enjoy myself during the journey to whatever we were going to eat first. Ya know what I mean? And it was delicious, so there’s that too.
NOTRE DAME + ANOTHER KILLER SANDWICH
Our first stop on day 4 was Notre Dame. This church was one of my favorite things to learn about in art history class as a college freshman, so I did really enjoy being able to see it in person. However, we were totally hungover from that cocktail pitcher we had the night before (woopsies). We had to wait in line for a bit to get in, but it wasn’t terrible. It was pretty awesome being able to stand inside that massive church. But, we weren’t in the best of moods and decided as we left that we needed another one of those magical sidewalk sandwiches. (It all comes back to food, doesn’t it?) We found one with pesto chicken, cheese, roasted tomatoes, lettuce, mayo and chives, and it was truly magical. Robert still talks about that one sometimes.
WANDERING + SOME RANDOM SHOPPING
After fueling up on our sandwich we headed off on our journey to the next major stop of the day, which also involved sandwiches. But since we had just eaten and weren’t really in a hurry to eat again, we took our time and enjoyed the process of getting there. We took the subway and landed in a subway stop that was inside of a large mall. We were very confused. Seizing the day, we just wandered around in there for a bit and I ended up buying a pair of shoes that I now wear all the time. They make me think of Paris every time I put them on.
FRENCHIE TO GO
Eventually we arrived at our destination: Frenchie To Go. It’s a more laid-back “to-go” version of the popular restaurant Frenchie, which is notoriously impossible to get into. It was hard enough to get seats at this place, but we managed to snag some by the window. It’s got a cafeteria vibe with larger tables where small groups sit amongst each other wherever they can find a spot. We split the pulled pork sandwich, french fries and their famous ginger beer (3 of my favorite foods of all time). I wouldn’t say it was our most memorable meal, but it was definitely top-notch and I would highly recommend stopping there if you’re nearby.
PERE LACHAISE CEMETERY
Since I work in the monument industry, I was really determined to get to the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery. That was our next stop. On our way there we got an apple tart from a bakery and also stopped at a bar down the street from the cemetery for a drink before heading in (mainly so I could use the restroom – take note: if you want to use the public restrooms in Paris, bring your own toilet paper). The cemetery was hauntingly beautiful and only a little bit creepy. We were there during the “golden hour” before they closed, which is always great in a cemetery because you get so many gorgeous shadows. No, we didn’t see Jim Morrison’s grave because WHO CARES (well I suppose some people do) – I just wanted to see all of the cool old mausoleums and stuff. Being the recent gravestone nerd that I am, I was all “how the heck did they even set these monuments?!” They’re all so close together it just seems like it would be impossible to get equipment in there. Who knows. But it was a really cool thing to see and we had a lovely time just wandering around and taking pictures together.
PINK FLAMINGO PIZZA
Hey, whaddaya know – After the cemetery it was time to eat again! We went to one of the places I was most excited about and what turned out to be one of my favorite dinners we had: Pink Flamingo pizza. The location we went to is a few blocks from the canal Saint-Martin, and what makes it so great is that you can go sit by the canal with a pink balloon, and then they will deliver your pizza to you via bike. Luckily we arrived about ten minutes before they opened for dinner, so we were one of the first people to order. All of their pizzas have fun names, and we ordered the special that day, “La Brangelina,” with fresh figs, fresh chevre, pistachios and honey. TO DIE FOR. (I shared a copycat recipe of this pizza.) We enjoyed it immensely while people-watching along the canal. Another magical moment.
After some more wandering the streets of Paris we ended the night with gelato, one of my favorite foods, going strong on the Italian theme after our pizza. Our visit to Pozzetto gelato was one of the highlights of my day – partially because the gelato was amazing (chocolate hazelnut, pistachio and stracciatella), but also because the Italian man serving us was an utter delight. Before this trip my only other experience being abroad was in Italy, so I kept wanting to speak Italian to everyone. I was really excited at the gelato place to say “grazie” to the Italian man, and I think it totally made his day when I said it because he yelled “prego!,” which totally made my day. It’s the little things.
BREAKFAST, FARMER’S MARKET + A PICNIC AT LUXEMBOURG GARDENS
After once again beginning our day with our cute little hotel breakfast, we tried to go back to the Eric Kayser bakery but they were closed. We then stumbled upon a farmer’s market, which was perfect because our plan was to head to the Luxembourg Gardens for a little post-breakfast picnic. At the market we picked up a chocolate eclair and a loaf of fruit bread to go along with the pot of jam and nectarine (leftover from our Versailles picnic) that we had brought along. After strolling through the gardens we found a spot for our picnic and were able to get a few photos of it before we were kicked off of the grass. Oops. I guess we missed the signs about staying off the grass.
From there we wanted to get bikes from the kiosks that are all over Paris (how convenient!), but totally failed because our credit cards didn’t have the fancy chips in them at that point and they wouldn’t work on the machines. That was a major bummer, but it just meant that we had to walk (very leisurely) to our next destination: The Louvre. Along the way I bought a scarf from a stand near the river, and I finally made my way into a Ladurée store to buy some macarons. Those things are expensive but damn are they delicious! In case you’re wondering, my loot included: 2 pistachio, 2 salted caramel, 1 chocolate Venezuela, 1 strawberry poppy, 1 orange blossom and 1 lime basil. So good. Robert and I would share one occasionally – he was kind of bossy about it and wouldn’t let me eat more than one in a sitting. It was probably for the best, but a little annoying to eat half of one when all you want to do is sit down and eat the whole box.
THE LOUVRE + A TERRIBLE LUNCH
So we made it to the Louvre. You might think that since I’m an artist that I was dying to see the Louvre. But … nah. I mean, I would have felt like a total failure of an art school graduate if I made it to Paris and didn’t go in the Louvre, but it was one of my least favorite things that we got to see in the city. That being said, I did enjoy it overall and I’m glad I got to see it. Part of my problem with it had nothing to do with the Louvre, but with my physical condition at the time. As it turns out, getting a spa pedicure for the wedding was a major mistake because it ruined my feet. It feels so wonderful to have them scrub all of the gross scaly skin off of your feet and then they feel so soft … but it also made my feet totally unequipped for the amount of walking we did. For the majority of the time we were in Paris my feet hurt so badly and were literally cracking open. Gross. By the time we made it to the Louvre, I could hardly walk.
One of our major Louvre fails was our lunch. This comes back to my feet, too: Robert didn’t want to eat there, but I told him with absolute certainty that if I walked far enough away from the Louvre to get food, I wasn’t coming back. I just didn’t have it in me. So we ate at what looked like a nice little cafe near one of the majestic stairwells, and it was TERRIBLE. We had to wait for a table, then we had to wait for our server, and then we had to wait for our food, which arrived in a plastic container like a sandwich you would buy at the gas station. They didn’t even take it out and put it on a plate! Ummm, thanks, but I could have just gone up to a little stand and paid for that, eaten it, and moved on with my life by now. Not only that, but the sandwich was terrible. I ordered a ham and cheese sandwich because those had all been fantastic in Paris, but this thing they gave me was two slices of terrible American-ish white bread with a slice of ham and a slice of cheese in the middle. What the …? We were so appalled by the whole scenario that Robert really wanted to dine and ditch (we didn’t). If you go to the Louvre, eat somewhere else.
So we did the Louvre, saw some cool stuff, ate terrible sandwiches, took a selfie with the Mona Lisa and then we skedaddled. You probably need to spend an entire day in there to really do it justice, but we just weren’t feeling it that day and I had other places to go. Or at least places to eat that weren’t about to serve me gas station sandwiches at a premium price, thank you very much.
THE PARIS OPERA HOUSE
We really wanted to see the Paris Opera House, so we headed in that direction. Unfortunately it had just closed for the night, so we settled on walking a lap around the building to kind of take it all in. There was a guy playing guitar and singing on the steps of the opera house, and he had gathered quite a crowd. I’m not surprised – he was really good. We paused to listen to him for a little bit. Throughout our whole journey to the opera house we had still been trying to rent bikes from a kiosk but hadn’t yet run into the kind French person who explained to us why our cards weren’t working, so we were feeling a little frazzled. Luckily, one of the best things about Paris is their subway system. It is a total cinch to get the hang of it – You can just walk into any subway station, take a peek at their map and pretty easily figure out exactly what you need to do to get to your next destination. If only NYC’s subway system were that simple. So we plopped our exhausted, bike-less selves onto the subway and took it over to L’Arc de Triomphe.
L’ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Everyone freaks out about going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, but we got a tip from a friend (thanks Sinead!) that one of the best views in Paris is from the top of L’Arc de Triomphe. I, for one, did enjoy this one more than the Eiffel Tower. First of all, it takes way less time to get up there. We might have waited in line for like five minutes? We opted to take the stairs to the top, which was definitely a workout but also totally doable. There was still daylight when we were there (it was dark when we were on top of the Eiffel Tower), and I appreciated being able to see all of the details of the city as opposed to just twinkling lights. Plus, you can see all of the “spokes” of Paris from the top (the streets of Paris are shaped like a wagon wheel with the Arc de Triomphe at the center), so it makes you appreciate all of the planning that went into building that city back in the day. It’s truly amazing.
It was our last evening in Paris, so we wanted to have a memorable dinner, but had no idea where to go. We were totally exhausted from the past couple of days, so we checked out Yelp for something nearby that we could walk to and then just take a cab back to the hotel. The place that really intrigued us was an Asian fusion place called Miss Ko. Robert loves Asian cuisine more than anything, so we went for it. The meal we had there together, ironically (in all of its Asian glory), was our favorite meal in Paris.
The decor of this place was so festive and they even had a DJ. We sat at a very long skinny table that went down the center of the restaurant. They seat couples across from one another but then throughout the evening as it fills up, you end up with other groups sitting directly next to you. However, I never felt like the people next to us were so close that we were intruding on each other’s privacy. It was weirdly intimate while also giving a sense of community to the diners. I think it was called “the dragon table” because it had a glass surface with a bunch of TV screens underneath it, but every few minutes an animated dragon snaked its way up and down the table. It was bizarre and super cool.
We ate a lot at this place. Here’s a breakdown of what we had:
• Robert had a Kirin beer while I started off with a cocktail called the Kyuri-Tini Cucumber (wyborowa vodka, fresh cucumber, basil, lime)
• Gyoza with leeks and a ginger ponzu sauce (vegetarian)
• Rainbow Samurai Roll (salmon, avocado, mango, mango spicy sauce)
• Mr. Le Gouverneur Roll (lobster, mango julienne, avocado, fresh herbs and lobster dressing)
• Crispy Salmon Cream Roll (crispy salmon, avocado, cucumber, cream cheese)
• cocktail #2 for me: Jah Mai Kay (3-year old Havana club rum, Myers dark rum, curacao triple dry, orange bitters, vanilla syrup, lime juice) – I think this one also had passionfruit seeds floating in it
• Dessert: little donuts with 3 dipping sauces (coconut, strawberry and Nutella)
Everything we ate there was sooooo delicious. This meal felt the most “honeymoon-ish” out of all of our meals in Paris. We really went all out because it was our last night in the city and who the heck knows when we might make it back to Paris. We took our time soaking in the atmosphere, enjoying our food and each other. In fact, we were there for SO long that the restaurant went through two lighting changes where they dimmed the lights. It was a wonderful way to end our stay in Paris.
We took a cab back to the hotel, and in the morning we set off for our next destination: St. Malo!
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MY TIPS FOR PARIS
• If you’ve never traveled abroad before or don’t have much time for travel research, consider using a travel agent. #bestdecisionever
• Eat a lot of pastries. (I feel like I should have eaten so many more pastries in Paris.)
• Be choosy with your sidewalk cafes. Some are great and some are terrible.
• Get a mojito at Cafe Le George V. Actually, get two. Don’t look at the bill.
• Set an alarm for waking up and don’t close the curtains.
• Eat a lot of little meals where you can, but don’t try to share something (as in “splitting” an entree) at a cafe or restaurant. You WILL get reprimanded by your server.
• Do the Versailles Bike Tour. It’s the only way to see Versailles. Just trust me.
• Buy a jar of salted butter caramel and eat it with a spoon.
• Trust the subway. It’s your friend.
• Carry some toilet paper with you, because you might need it.
• Eat a ham and cheese sandwich from a bakery.
• Do a “skip the line” Eiffel Tower Tour. The cost is worth those extra 3 hours in Paris when you won’t be standing in line.
• Eat some Pink Flamingo pizza by the canal and people watch.
• Don’t sit on the grass at the Luxembourg Gardens.
• Buy a lot of Ladurée macarons. They’re REALLY that good.
• Don’t eat at one of the cafes at the Louvre.
• Go to the top of L’Arc de Triomphe.
• Eat at Miss Ko and stay for a long time.
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Whoa, this was a mammoth post. Did you actually make it to the end? Holy moly. Clearly we had an amazing time in Paris, and I can’t wait to tell you all about our second honeymoon destination: St. Malo. Stay tuned! (UPDATE: Here’s the post about St. Malo.)
Photos mostly by Robert Cornelius with some Instagrams from both of us thrown in there (sara_cornelius_ and robert.cornelius).
Illustration at top created with pencil and Photoshop.
Prints of my illustrations are available in my Etsy and Society6 shops.